Even if you’re in the middle of a flare-up.
Last week, I shared a little overview of skin stigma in a culture that worships perfect skin as a sign of health and moral virtue (you can read it here). But just as it is the case for weight, skin conditions are in fact another demonstration of how diverse humans can be! For having tried to get rid of acne for DECADES and seeing my vitiligo progress since 2012, I am aware that my control over those is typically VERY limited or only happening on a short-term basis.
So the next question is: Does not being able to restore ‘perfect’ skin make me less of a ‘good’ human? In fact, does that make me ‘bad’? And even if skin conditions were in fact a sign of poor overall health (or the trendier word for it: ‘inflammation’), which dermatologists cannot even confirm at this stage, would I not be deserving of respect because of my health status?
Of course, the answer to all these questions is a BIG FAT: ‘NO’!
Once you become conscious of this fact and realise that the beauty industry actually profits off from your insecurities, you understand that your power is refusing to be a part of this system.
Don’t get me wrong: I am not telling you to stop care for your skin’s needs as you see fit. What I am advocating for is to not lose your mind or trash your mental health in the process. What I am postulating is that you CAN take care of your skin condition while ALSO reprogramming your thoughts to live better in your skin, just as it looks today.
Here are four simple steps to consider taking to become more skin positive:
1/ Stop skin shamers in their tracks
Shaming or ‘concern trolling’ others for the appearance of their skin is heavily shaming, counter-productive and should not go unnotified. Next time a stranger (or your auntie Martha) tells you about cutting out dairy or washing your face with castor oil, feel free to respond with a firm ‘Thanks for your concern. My skin is solely my business and I’d rather we speak about something more interesting together’ and redirect the conversation to more interesting topics.
3/ Curate your media
Rather than changing ourselves to fit very narrow beauty standards, we can change the culture around us to accept all of us JUST AS WE ARE. Changing the culture also involves curating your (social) media feeds to spark joy instead of feeling “less than”. Unfollow accounts that don’t serve you or profit from your insecurities and, instead, find your skin positive tribe. Look for acne positive inspirations here.
3/ Don’t hide
It can be tempting not to attend a work event when you are embarrassed by your skin condition, or to shy away from photos when suffering from a flare-up. Resist it as best you can. Remember that your skin says nada about your ability or skills or moral values. Keep in mind that people who love you want to spend time with you and have memories to cherish in pictures after you’re long gone. Whether you were spotty or scratchy doesn’t truly make a difference.
Consider taking steps to let go of ‘coverage’ at your own pace. If it feels scary to let go of make-up completely at first, or to divulge eczema on specific parts of your body, start with baby steps: choose the occasion & the places where you might experiment with less covering make up, or reintroduce short sleeves. Witnessing other people’s reactions and realising most of them won’t even have a reaction at all can give you the courage to take a bolder step next time.
4/ Practice self-compassion and self-care
Even with your own internal dialogue, words matter. Make a practice of banning negative words like ‘bad’, ‘disgusting’, ‘horrifying’, ‘gross’ when talking about your skin. Remember to be as positive or non-judgmental as possible, and to focus on substance rather than appearance: think of your courage, kindness, ambition, compassion. If you feel in physical pain, journal about it and what emotions it brings up for you. Address those with self-care: meditation, walks, yoga, deep breathing, listening to music, speaking to a friend. Seek medical support if you suffer from social anxiety, stress, depression related to acne. Find relief in knowing that working on your mental health is likely to also have a positive impact on your skin in the long run.
What are your ways to deal with skin anxiety? What did you do that helped you reconnect with your skin, regardless of its state? What are your skin positive social media accounts recommendations? Comment below or via @byond.bodyimage.
Take care !